Sled races stay on track

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TURNER — High winds did little to dampen the spirits of riders and spectators who came out en masse Saturday for the 11th annual One Lunger 100 Vintage Snowmobile Race.

The event was put on by the Turner Ridge Riders Snowmobile Club and held just off Route 117 on land donated by Caldwell Farms.

The day’s races were held on a half-mile track designed and built by members of the snowmobile club. Several races took place throughout the day. In the morning, six heats of racers competed to qualify for the day’s main event, a 50-lap spectacle whose champion took home $400.

Before the main event, children competed in a 10-lap kids’ race, women in a powder puff race and those with twin-cylinder sleds in a special race just for them.

The main event was scheduled for 2 p.m., but hundreds of spectators gathered hours before to socialize or show off their sleds. Many had even snowmobiled to the event.

Seven-year-old Gabe Langley of Turner was preparing Saturday for the kids’ race. It was the fourth year Langley had competed. Sitting on a yellow, 120cc Ski-Doo, Gabe said he was looking forward to doing the main event, when he got a bit older.

“It’s a tough race,” said Tracy Morris, who coordinated activities for Saturday’s event and whose husband, Ed Morris, is president of the Ridge Riders Club. “People start training months in advance.”

It’s not just the nature of the track or the weather, she said, but the age of the snowmobiles. The race is called “vintage” because all competing sleds must have been built before 1974.

“Everybody’s fascinated by the vintage race,” said Todd Zupancic, who runs the parts department for Irish Outdoor Motorsports, an event sponsor. “This racing is for hard-core older guys or flexible younger guys.” Nonetheless, he said, the day offered “perfect riding conditions.”

Kaela Jalbert, 22, a Turner native, missed qualifying in her first heat but finished well enough to make it into one of two “last chance” heats. Riding her pink Yamaha 292, she finished sixth in that race and was excited about competing in the main event. “Of course, it matters where you finish,” she said, “but it’s really all about the fun of getting out here to ride.”

Brady Albert of Greene had just finished a qualifying race on his 1973 Ski-Doo, decorated with various stickers and decals. “It’s a good day off,” he said. Though he admitted racing on the older sleds — most lacking suspensions — has disadvantages. “I might have a little trouble if I qualify,” he said. “I’m already pretty sore.”

“We’ve got over 90 sleds registered to race,” including “guys from Caribou and New Hampshire,” Ed Morris said. “We’re the only nonprofit race like this going on in Central Maine.”

Of the roughly 75 members of the Ridge Riders Club, Morris said, about half volunteered at the event.

Dulsie Varney, a recreational rider and volunteer, was selling raffle tickets at the event. By 11 a.m. she had sold around $700 worth. She said the group was hoping to raise around $10,000 through the event. She liked to volunteer, in part, she said, because of the communal aspect of the races.

“Everybody comes out,” she said. “You see some who come from away, but everyone you know is here.”

A half-dozen vendors were on hand, selling race-related apparel, snowmobiling equipment, and hot food and beverages.

High school seniors Brianna Hammond and Ashley Dion, both of Greene, spent the day working concessions for Leavitt Area High School’s Project Grad program, which was selling coffee, hot chocolate, pizza and snacks. They had never raced, they said, but both snowmobiled occasionally.

About 2,000 people attended last year’s event, Tracy Morris said. It’s a lot of work to put on, she said, but after 10 years, “they have it all together. It’s sort of a science.”

Money from Saturday’s event goes to support the Ridge Riders and for upkeep for trails developed by the club, she said. In the past, some of the money raised has been donated to local groups, such as Pine Tree Camp and the Turner Rescue Barn, Morris said.

And local riders will be happy to know that the track built for the event will stay up for the rest of the winter.

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